As a fourth grader I had my nose bloodied by a bully named 'Todd.' During homeroom period a friend of mine, Brian, who was on friendly terms with Todd, playfully teased Todd by poking him in the chest. Playfully. I joined the fun, aiding my buddy by lightly wrapping my arms around Todd so he couldn't raise his own arms in defense. Todd didn't like that. He busted free and popped me in the proboscis. It was more shocking and embarrassing than painful. But it did hurt. And bleed. Why had he responded so violently?

My elementary school experience with a bully helped me understand how nations, religions, and ethnic groups can simmer with long-standing hostility. Following that fourth-grade punch to my face, I had few interactions with Todd, all in the k-12 years. Not one of them good, but none as bad. It's been decades since I've seen him. Nonetheless, and I am a little ashamed to admit this, if I were to attend a high school reunion and encounter him, some small part of me -- a small part of my brain -- would want to take control of my body and kick Todd's middle-aged ass. That's for the bloody nose you gave me when we were both 100 pounds lighter . . . well, seems like you've put on closer to 200.

Fortunately, that small part of my mind would, at most, manifest itself as a single, brief tic of my eyelid, a passing muscular twitch. The other parts of my mind have forgiven and moved on.

Because there have been so many bloodied noses in the Middle East over the decades and centuries, and the punches still fly, I have little hope for peace in the region. I can involuntarily carry a stupid little grudge for decades and all I suffered was a brief episode of pain and embarrassment. I don't even have a creed I can employ to make it official that Todd is not one of my kind and potentially a threat to my kind; I can't turn to a sacred dogma to designate him as an adversary, a force of evil.

Can a person believe in a god who is the provider of their everything without being inclined to protect 'him' from disrespect and challenge? In this case, a god is a mammoth, supernatural nose. Careful, it can get bent out of shape. And all those who believe in that great, bent proboscis in the sky might vow revenge, or merely carry a grudge.

What right does anyone have, under all but the direst of self-preservation circumstances, to restrict the civil freedoms and perhaps even take the life of another? I believe none. Many groups, however, believe that their god grants exceptions. To the fatwa-inclined gods, the gods so twisted about converting non-believers that 'they' encourage violence and war, to these gods I say, Screw you and the ghosts you rode in on. Not only do these gods warp the minds of believers, 'their' existence threatens the lives of those who don't believe.

It galls me to think of the thousands upon thousands of people who have lost their freedom and even their lives because their behavior was viewed as an affront to the figment of another person's imagination.

In my opinion, religious cosmology is in dire need of cosmetic surgery. And I wouldn't stop at a little nip and tuck. I'd amputate the entire, invisible proboscis called "god." We'd all be freer for it.
[simultaneously posted at 360 Degree Skeptic]

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